Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Harming the Church by Catering to People Who Don't Care

Do you ever wonder why some people never watch football?  Of course not.  It's common knowledge that some people like sports and some people don’t.

The same basic principle is also true about the church.  Some people like it and some people don’t.  Some people have a genuine interest in spiritual matters, while others could give a flying flip about them.  Some people truly care about the Church Jesus died for and others could care less.

Some people have such a lack of interest in God that the last thing they will do is gather in a building and listen to a speaker talk about Him.

Now suppose you wanted to boost attendance in a football stadium.  You’ve already got the attention of those who are interested in football, so how do you reach those who aren’t? Well, you could put on a rock concert for the half time show which would attract in a few more faces.  You could also feature a high profile celebrity and that would attract a few more attenders, at least for a while.  Finally, to keep the regulars happy, you can squish in a 15 minute game among the other forms of entertainment. 

That way, there’s something for everyone.  Right?

Maybe.  But it’s not good football anymore.  It’s not even a good rock concert.  It’s just a hodgepodge of watered-down elements.  But you’ve discovered that by doing multiple things in a compromised manner you can get more people in stands.

When did church become like that?  When did teaching people about God become less important to us than headcounts?  I don’t know for sure, but the effects are obvious.  

There used to be a time when sermons involved the pastor just getting up and talking and sharing content from the Bible.  If you wanted to learn something, you actually had to pay attention and listen to what was being said.  If you wanted to grow, you had to actually pray as you listened and ask God to show you what was applicable to you.

Vertically focused worship and Biblical teaching is not enough anymore.  Unless there is a plethora of options and/or stage entertainment, people will leave.  Why?  Because they don’t really care about God or the church... only what it offers them (and doesn't require their commitment).  Spiritual development has become something we try to squeeze in between the fun.  And just like the football game, it's not even good church any more... just a hodge podge of watered-down elements.

And guess who really gets hurt by our tendency to cater to those who don’t care about God?  Those who DO care – that small minority of souls who would actually like to grow and learn what it means to be a real Christian.  They’re being deprived of real nourishment in these lightweight snack shops.  In fact, they would grow faster if the place wasn’t  over-crowded with so many tares... that we have planted ourselves!

If you want to pack the pews, just say what people want to hear.   If you’re going to preach the hard truth, just be sure to slip it in between two thick slices of “blessings.”  Everyone wants to hear how blessed they are going to be…. how favored they are… how happy they can be… and what God is going to do for them.

No one wants to hear about what they should be doing for God.  We want to be reminded we are His children, but not His servants.  Why?  Because children get everything handed to them on a platter… while servants lay down their lives in sacrificial service.  We want to hear about our future inheritance, not our earthly responsibility.

Let’s get real about the Church.  We are not failing God if people leave.  The world hates Jesus and always will.  Not even Jesus retained everyone who came to listen.  We are failing God when we push Him (and His Word) from the spotlight and use entertainers wearing club attire to keep carnal people in.

As it turns out, Jesus isn’t bait enough for the crowds.  He’s a stumbling block to them.  How dare we repackage Him into an image of our own making?  If the gospel isn’t offensive to the carnal nature then it is no longer the gospel.

There is no nice way to tell someone they are sinful by nature, haven fallen short of God’s standard, are headed to the lake of fire if their name is not found written in the Book of Life, and to be saved we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.  Look to the Bible and you never see Jesus tripping over Himself chasing after people who walked away after one of His teaching sessions.  Nor did He apologize for saying something harshly.  When Jesus saw hypocrisy, He confronted it head on.   He verbally shredded the false shepherds of His day.   He never concerned Himself about political correctness either.  His parables were blunt and in-your-face.  He demanded righteousness from His followers, and packed in plenty of graphic warnings in His teachings about what would happen to those who rebelled against God.  He never watered-down the message to attract those who did not care about God.  He spoke the truth forcibly so that He might draw those who DID care about God.

If people (in the church) are bored by the Bible and the truth contained in its pages, then let them leave.  We should never deprive those who DO care for the sake of those who don’t.    We shouldn’t be making house calls and personal visits begging them to return, apologizing ten different ways because their conscience was pricked by the Word of God. 

What passes for “loving the lost” these days is actually “catering to carnality.”

The universal Church is made up of Christians only, for these souls have been baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit Spirit, and only He has that power.  Therefore, the local church is a gathering place for believers to be nurtured, developed, and educated into disciples.  Yet, her doors are wide open to anyone and everyone who would love to join us... including the unconverted.  It is here they can hear the Word and be converted (by God's engrafted Word that saves the soul).  If, on the other hand, they decide they are not interested, we let them go just as they came.  Just as a skating rink is for skating, not baseball, the purpose of local church is to talk about God and make disciples…. not entertaining the fallen nature.

We can talk about church growth until we are blue in the face, but as long we keep doing everything possible to attract those who could care the least, we’re only hurting those who care the most.

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